Emerging Through Autism Through Jewish Music
The beginning: My journey in Jewish music (I’m a “newbie” Cantorial Soloist, songleader and teacher) began after our middle son, Evan, was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, and was singularly focused after I met Rick Recht. Through these experiences, I learned about the power that high-intensity music can bring to Jewish life. And, all of a sudden, the life I had been living inside the bubble of Autism – therapy, intervention, school meetings, aaaahhhhhh – was transformed into a life that INCLUDED Autism, but wasn’t built around it. NOW, there was music!
A bit of history: When Evan turned one, he had only a ﬁve-word vocabulary, and, within two months, those words were gone. At age two, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and, eventually at age ﬁve, High Functioning Autism. He was treated ﬁve days a week by a team of therapists until he was eight. When we moved away, I became Evan’s full-time therapist. Through all of it, I turned to music to keep me sane. As I ﬁlled my car and house with anything from Mickey Mouse and Gymboree to Broadway and rock, what I noticed was that Evan was entranced by music!
Evan wasn’t using language, but he was playing music. He hated hearing loud sounds, but still he would sit and “play” my piano, bang on drums, blow horns, shake maracas and tambourines, and strum the mini-guitar. He turned anything and everything in my house into a musical instrument. I exploited this by using music to engage and draw him out of his self-stimulatory behavior. By the time he was seven, and his older brother had started piano lessons, Evan was sounding out familiar tunes on the piano and playing them with one ﬁnger – over and over again. And then, he started singing!
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